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VPN Usage, Data Privacy & Internet Penetration Statistics

John Mason

John Mason

In this in-depth research, we’re covering all the important statistics and figures for VPN usage, Internet penetration and data privacy. Here’s a full list of resources used in this article.

VPN Usage Statistics – Table of Contents

VPN Access by Device

The use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has grown considerably in recent years, as public awareness and applications continue to rise. In fact, one quarter of all Internet users have accessed a VPN in the last month, with mobile access growing in popularity:

  • Desktop – 17%
  • Mobile – 15%
  • Tablet – 7%
VPN access by device

VPN Usage Frequency

For many users, VPNs have become an integral part of daily life. Of those who accessed a VPN in the last month:

Every day 4-5 times a week 2-3 times a week Once a week 2-3 times a month Once a month
Desktop: 35% Desktop: 15% Desktop: 14% Desktop: 10% Desktop: 7% Desktop: 6%
Mobile: 42% Mobile: 13% Mobile: 11% Mobile: 9% Mobile: 6% Mobile: 5%
VPN usage frequency

VPN Usage by Age & Gender

Across all users, VPNs remain most popular amongst younger generations, particularly males. The number of females accessing VPNs has increased on previous years, however:

VPN Users by Age: VPN Users by Gender:
16-24: 35% Male: 62%
25-34: 33% Female: 38%
35-44: 19%
45-54: 9%
55-64: 4%
VPN usage by age and gender

Regional VPN Usage (of all internet users)

The Asia-Pacific region continues to be heaviest users of VPNs, although they are continuing to grow in popularity among Latin American and Middle Eastern users:

  • Asia Pacific: 30%
  • Europe: 17%
  • Latin America: 23%
  • Middle East & Africa: 19%
  • North America: 17%
Regional VPN usage

Emerging Markets Lead for VPN Usage

Given their applications in bypassing Internet censorship and hiding browsing activity, it’s no surprise that emerging markets lead for VPN usage:

Top Ten Markets

  • Indonesia: 38%
  • India: 38%
  • Turkey: 32%
  • China: 31%*
  • Malaysia: 29%
  • Saudi Arabia: 29%
  • Brazil: 26%
  • Vietnam: 25%
  • UAE: 25%
  • Philippines: 25%
Top ten markets for VPNs

*China’s percentage is likely to drop in 2018, as the Government attempts to crack down access to VPN providers in the country.

Reasons Why People Use VPN

So, why are people using VPNs? Although motivations differ depending on the region, the top motivations across all users are:

Access better entertainment content: 50%
Access social networks, or news services: 34%
Keep anonymity while browsing: 31%
Access sites / files / services at work: 30%
Access restricted download / torrent sites: 27%
Communicate with friends / family abroad: 25%
Hide my web browsing from the government: 18%
Access a Tor browser: 17%
VPN usage motivator

But a stronger pattern begins to emerge when we look at the regional differences:

VPN usage motivator by region

Accessing entertainment remains the strongest motivator even when regional differences are factored in, although retaining anonymity while browsing the Internet is a major application in certain countries:

Argentina Ireland Singapore
Australia Italy South Africa
Belgium Japan South Korea
Brazil Malaysia Spain
Canada Mexico Sweden
China Netherlands Taiwan
Egypt New Zealand Thailand
France Philippines Turkey
Germany Poland UAE
Hong Kong Portugal UK
India Russia USA
Indonesia Saudi Arabia Vietnam

Access better entertainment content
Keep my anonymity while browsing
Access restricted download / torrent site

VPN usage motivators by country

VPN Users Paying for Content

Despite the primary motivation being entertainment content for most users worldwide, those who access VPNs are not pirates. 77% of VPN users are buying digital content each month, across a wide range of formats:

Percentage of VPN users who paid for the following in the last month:

  • Music download: 33%
  • Music streaming service: 27%
  • Movie or TV streaming service: 27%
  • Mobile app: 27%
  • Movie or TV download: 26%
VPN users paying for content

Online Users & Digital Statistics

It’s worth considering the growth of VPN usage alongside the global increase in overall Internet access, alongside the dramatic and continued growth of social media and mobile phone usage:

In 2018, there are:

  • 4.021bn Internet users (7% increase on last year)
  • 3.196bn social media users (13% increase on last year)
  • 5.135bn mobile phone users (4% increase on last year)
Online users in 2018

Social media use has continued its impressive climb since 2017, with one in every three minutes spent online now devoted to social media. Globally, digital consumers are now spending an average of 2 hours and 15 minutes per day on social media networks and messaging. According to a recent survey, the top motivations for accessing social media in 2018 are:

  • To stay in touch with what friends are doing: 42%
  • To stay up-to-date with news and current events: 41%
  • To fill up spare time: 39%
  • To find funny or entertaining content: 37%
  • General networking with other people: 34%
Reasons for social media usage

The average internet user now spends around 6 hours each day using internet-powered devices and services – approximately one-third of their waking lives. If we add this together for all 4 billion of the world’s internet users, we’ll spend a staggering 1billion years online in 2018.

Global Internet Penetration

Although internet use is growing, access is not distributed evenly around the world. Internet penetration rates are still low across Central Africa and Southern Asia, but these regions are seeing fast growth in internet adoption.

The global average for Internet penetration is 53%. By region however:

North America: 88% Southern Europe: 77% Western Asia: 65%
Central America: 61% Northern Africa: 49% Southern Asia: 36%
The Caribbean: 48% Western Africa: 39% Eastern Asia: 57%
South America: 68% Middle Africa: 12% Southeast Asia: 58%
Northern Europe: 94% Southern Africa: 51% Oceana: 69%
Western Europe: 90% Eastern Africa: 27%
Eastern Europe: 74% Central Asia: 50%
Global internet penetration by region

 

The highest penetration percentages in the world belong to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, both of whom boast an incredible 99%. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lowest is North Korea, with a shockingly low 0.6% penetration rate.

Internet Access by Device

As you might expect, more people are now accessing the Internet via smartphones, accounting for a greater share of web traffic than all other devices combined:

  • Laptops and Desktops – 43%
  • Smartphones – 52%
  • Tablet devices – 4%
  • Other devices – 0.14%
Internet access by device type

In addition to a greater number of devices, mobile connections are also getting faster worldwide. GSMA Intelligence reports than more than 60% of mobile connections can now be classified as ‘broadband’:

The percentage of broadband connections compared to population
Northern America: 95% Western Europe: 98% Middle Africa: 12%
Central America: 62% Eastern Europe: 92% Southern Africa: 83%
The Caribbean: 30% Southern Europe: 97% Eastern Africa: 22%
South America: 82% Northern Africa: 59% Central Asia: 40%
Northern Europe: 109% Western Africa: 33% Western Asia: 63%
Broadband connections

The fastest mobile Internet connection speeds are found in Norway, where the average speed is 61.2 MBPS. The slowest is in Iraq, with an average speed of 4.2 MBPS. Thanks in part to the continued global increase in download speeds, the average global smartphone user now uses 2.9GB of data every month – a rise of more than 50% on last year.

This continued growth of mobile-first Internet use is, unsurprisingly, being driven by Millennials. Of 34 tracked online activities:

Millenials Gen X Baby Boomers
Mobile first – 31 Mobile first – 17 Mobile first – 7
Laptop first – 3 Laptop first – 17 Laptop first – 27
Millenials Lead Mobile - First

As you might expect, much of the growth in social media and mobile-first Internet is down to the US and, to a lesser extent, the UK:

United Kingdom snapshot: United States snapshot:
Population: 66.38 million Population: 325.6 million
Internet Users: 63.06 million Internet Users: 286.9 million
Active Social Media Users: 44 million Active Social Media Users: 230 million
Mobile Subscriptions: 73.23 million Mobile Subscriptions: 340.5 million
Active Mobile Social Media Users: 38 million Active Mobile Social Media Users: 200 million
UK Internet penetration US Internet penetration

Data Privacy

With an increase in cyber attacks and ever-growing internet access, concerns around data privacy have become far more prominent. As the general-public becomes more informed about the information businesses and governments collect on them, their worries about the use or mismanagement of this data have increased:

  • 95% of Americans are concerned about how companies use their data.
  • More than 80% are more concerned today than they were a year ago.
  • More than 50% of Americans are looking for new ways to safeguard their personal data.
Privacy Concerns

It would seem their concerns are warranted too, with 31% of Americans saying their online life is worth $100,000 or more. Despite this, only one in four Americans believe they’re ultimately responsible for ensuring safe and secure Internet access, and 51% of consumers have had online and mobile accounts compromised in the previous year.

Most people place the responsibility for safe Internet access and the safeguarding of their data with corporations, but many IT professionals are concerned about businesses ability to effectively protect this data:

  • 95% of businesses have sensitive data in the cloud.
  • 93% of IT professionals report challenges with ensuring data privacy.
  • 82% of businesses have employees who do not follow data privacy policies.
Why businesses remain vulnerable

These concerns have led to a significant lack of trust from the public, with consumers expressing growing anxiety over the security of their records with corporations:

few express confidence that records will be kept secure
Sources: